The Novosibirsk Zoo (Russian: Новосибирский зоопарк) is a scientific institution as well as a popular tourist attraction. The zoo has around 11,000 animals representing 738 species and is an active participant in thirty-two different captive breeding programmes for endangered species. On average, over 1,500,000 people visit the zoo each year.
In 2000, the zoo was found to hold black-maned lions that appeared to be the closest surviving relatives of the extinct Cape lion of South Africa. John Spence, a South African zoo director, had always been fascinated by stories of these grand lions scaling the walls of General van Riebeeck's castle in the 17th century. He believed some Cape lions might have been taken to Europe and interbred with other lions. His search took thirty years, which led him to the Novosibirsk Zoo, where he found the closest living resemblance to the Cape lion; the zoo called the lion Simon. The lion and his family are kept outdoors in large, natural settings. "It is kept all the year around in the climate conditions of the west Siberia at the temperatures from −49 to 36 °C [−56 to 97 °F]. In forty years, more than sixty cubs were born." The Novosibirsk Zoo was able to send two lion cubs to Spence's zoo in South Africa for breeding.
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